Swazi diplomats lived the ‘high life’ on a visit to New York, while people in Swaziland struggled to survive, a US television channel revealed.
NBC Channel 4 in New York monitored members of a Swazi delegation who were in New York for a UN General Assembly meeting last year. The channel’s I-Team reported they were found to be ‘spending extravagantly in New York City while their homelands struggle’.
Alastair Smith, a politics professor from New York University, told the TV show, ‘The lavish spending is just endemic of autocratic politics as a whole.’
Prof Smith said the UN’s Manhattan address was a distraction from the intended work of the General Assembly. ‘They are here for the shopping, the food the wine, the dining. If it was in a less attractive place, I’m sure fewer people would want to come as hangers-on.’
The I-Team cameras found several visitors, including family members, with the UN delegation from Swaziland walking out of high-end retailer Bergdorf Goodman. One women had Bergdorf Goodman shopping bags, though they said the items inside were just gifts.
The TV show reported that according to UN data, nearly 70 percent of Swazi people survive on less than US$2 a day.
‘Despite those struggles back home, numerous members of the Swaziland UN entourage [stayed] at the luxury Mandarin Oriental Hotel,’ the I-Team reported.
The five-star Mandarin Oriental Hotel describes itself as ‘New York’s most breathtaking luxury hotel’.
The Mandarin Oriental Hotel website says, ‘Stunning floor-to-ceiling windows overlook the Hudson River, Central Park and Manhattan’s glittering skyline, while our sumptuous rooms and spacious suites offer the ultimate blend of style, comfort and luxury.’
It goes on, ‘With acclaimed cuisine, tempting cocktails and chic surroundings, our bars and restaurants are among the best in Manhattan.’
The cheapest room is US$595 (E6,000) per night. In Swaziland 70 percent of the population would have to work for about 10 months to earn the cost of one room for one night.